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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
Rivers of water - See the Psalm 1:3 note. As the cultivator directs the stream into the channels where it is most wanted, so Yahweh directs the thoughts of the true king, that his favors may fall, not at random, but in harmony with a divine order.
2Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.
3To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
Compare the marginal reference. The words have a special significance as coming from the king who had built the temple, and had offered sacrifices that could not be numbered for multitude" 1 Kings 8:5.
4An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.
The plowing - The Hebrew word, with a change in its vowel points, may signify either:
(1) the "fallow field," the "tillage" of Proverbs 13:23, or
(2) the lamp.
According to: (1) the verse would mean, "The outward signs of pride, the proud heart, the broad lands of the wicked, all are evil." (2) however, belongs, as it were, to the language of the time and of the book Proverbs 13:9; Proverbs 24:20. The "lamp of the wicked" is their outwardly bright prosperity.
5The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.
Here diligence is opposed, not to sloth but to haste. Undue hurry is as fatal to success as undue procrastination.
6The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.
Vanity - Or, "a breath driven to and fro of those that are seeking death." Another reading of the last words is: "of the snares of death" (compare 1 Timothy 6:9). Some commentators have suggested that the "vapor" or "mist" is the mirage of the desert, misleading those who follow it, and becoming a "net of death."
7The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment.
Robbery - Probably the "violence" which the wicked practice.
Shall destroy them - More literally, carries them away.
8The way of man is froward and strange: but as for the pure, his work is right.
Or, "Perverse is the way of a sin burdened man."
9It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.
A wide house - literally, "a house of companionship," i. e., a house shared with her. The flat roof of an Eastern house was often used for retirement by day, or in summer for sleep by night. The corner of such a roof was exposed to all changes of weather, and the point of the proverb lies in the thought that all winds and storms which a man might meet with there are more endurable than the tempest within.
10The soul of the wicked desireth evil: his neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes.
11When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.
12The righteous man wisely considereth the house of the wicked: but God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness.
Or, The Righteous One (Yahweh) regardeth well the house of the wicked, and maketh the wicked fall into mischief.
13Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.
14A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.
15It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.
16The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.
congregation of the dead - The Rephaim (compare the Proverbs 2:18 note).
Remain - i. e., "He shall find a resting place, but it shall be in Hades."
17He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.
Wine and oil - i. e., The costly adjuncts of a princely banquet. The price of oil or precious unguent was about equal to the 300 days' wages of a field laborer Matthew 20:2. Indulgence in such a luxury would thus become the type of all extravagance and excess.
18The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright.
Compare the marginal reference. Evil doers seem to draw down the wrath of God upon their heads, and so become, as it were, the scapegoats of the comparatively righteous.
19It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.
20There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.
Spendeth it up - literally, swalloweth it. The wise man keeps a store in reserve. He gains uprightly, spends moderately, never exhausts himself. But the proverb may have also a higher application. The wise man stores up all "treasure to be desired" of wisdom, all "oil" of divine influence, which strengthens and refreshes, and so is ready at all times for the work to which the Master calls him. Compare Matthew 25:1-13.
21He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.
The man who keeps "righteousness" will assuredly find it, but he will find besides it the "life" and the "honor" which he was not seeking. Compare 1 Kings 3:13; Matthew 6:33.
22A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof.
Even in war, counsel does more than brute strength. So of the warfare which is carried on in the inner battlefield of the soul. There also wisdom is mighty to the "pulling down of strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4, where Paul uses the very words of the Septuagint Version of this passage), and the wise man scales and keeps the city which the strong man armed has seized and made his own.
23Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.
24Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath.
25The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.
Killeth him - He wastes his strength and life in unsatisfied longings for something which he has not energy to gain. The wish to do great or good things may sometimes be taken for the deed, but if the hindrance is from a man's own sloth, it does but add to his condemnation.
26He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not.
All the day long - Better, every day. The wish of the slothful man passes into restless, covetous, dissatisfied desire; the righteous, free from that desire, gives without grudging.
27The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?
A lower depth even than Proverbs 15:8. The wicked man may connect his devotion with his guilt, offer his sacrifice and vow his vow (as men have done under paganism or corrupted Christianity) for success in the perpetration of a crime.
28A false witness shall perish: but the man that heareth speaketh constantly.
Speaketh constantly - His testimony abides evermore who repeats simply what he has heard, whether from the lips of men or from the voice within, in contrast with "the false witness."
29A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way.
Directeth - i. e., Makes straight and firm. On one side it is the callousness of guilt; on the other side it is the confidence of integrity.
30There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.
Two companion proverbs. Nothing avails against, nothing without, God. The horse is the type of warlike strength, used chiefly or exclusively in battle. 1 Kings 4:26; 1 Kings 10:26-28, may be thought of as having given occasion to the latter of the two proverbs.
31The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.